Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 14, 2016

By Cynthia Terrell on October 14, 2016

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Dear all,

Some food for thought to distract us from the madness of this election season...

The Christian Science Monitor had a very interesting piece entitled How Women Lead Differently - a subject that I suspect will be getting more attention in the coming months. The topic always gives me pause, while it may be that women and men do have different leadership strengths I resist the trend toward thinking that it's (finally) time to elect women because they have special problem solving skills. Lots more could be said on this - particularly in the context of this election season.

The conversation that I want to hear happening among party members, from legislatures, and across news outlets is modeled by Jeremy Corbyn and others in the UK who are talking about intentional actions to make sure women are at parity with men. While the mechanism Corbyn is suggesting may not be the best for the United States it's the fact that he is raising it with a sophisticated understanding of the structural barriers facing women candidates that I find most appealing.

The house of commons is 71% male, with 459 men and 191 women. More than 50 other countries have proportionally more women in their Parliaments than the UK, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, while according to a 2011 report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, it would take 70 years - or 14 general elections - to achieve an equal number of women MPs.

“The fact that there are 140% more men that women in the House of Commons is not only a democratic deficit it is a democratic disgrace,” said Frances Scott, founder of 50:50 parliament, which has a petition calling for gender parity. “If the diverse majority that are women are having such difficulty breaking through many minorities must and do face insurmountable hurdles too. Addressing this issue is the key to making Parliament more representative and diverse generally.”

“It’s impossible to explain to the electorate why there have been fewer than 500 female MPs in 90 years,” said conservative MP Maria Miller, chairman of the women and equalities committee. “It’s inexcusable and we can no longer say things we change by osmosis, something has to be done.”
More evidence that the UK is on track to reach parity (before the United States) comes from an article that I cannot find the source for - my apologies - but here is the gist:

The U.K. Treasury announced that of the 72 firms that have signed on to its charter to add more women to the finance sector, 60 have pledged to put women in at least 30% of their senior roles by 2021. Included in that figure are 13 organizations that are taking the vow even further, setting a goal of gender parity within five years.

The U.K. has honed in on the gender imbalance in finance in part because the industry has the nation’s worst gender pay gap: 40%—significantly wider than the 19% average. That disparity could be due to the dearth of women in the upper echelon of the profession; they make up about 23% of the sector’s corporate boards and 14% of its executive committees.

Self-imposed quotas—like state-mandated ones in places like Norway and France—are always a controversial approach to increasing gender diversity because they could lead to the hiring of token or under-qualified female candidates and don’t necessarily fix the processes that have led to such lopsidedness. Yet in these cases I’m always reminded of the adage that Brenda Trenowden, global chair of the 30% Club, once shared with me: “What gets measured gets managed.”

Further progress on structural reform comes from another of our winner-take-all-voting-system-

cousins, Canada, where conversations are being had about changing voting systems according to this piece in The Guardian:

Around the world, electoral systems based on proportional representation increase the gender balance and diversity of legislatures.
Ellie Shechet echoed the thoughts of many in her blog post on Jezebel on the fact that the Nobel Prize winners this year were all men.

But on the upside, according to this piece from thegaurdian, Wonder Woman has been named UN girls' empowerment ambassador.
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Former FairVote fellow Molly Rockett was featured in this great piece from our friends at the AAUW in celebration of International Day of the Girl!
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Essence reports that #BlackWomenVote has been launched by Higher Heights for America to "amplify our voices in the 2016 election" - please use the hashtag!
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I was uplifted by an email I got from our friends at Vision2020: Equality in Sight - it's a terrific group with a vision I love - here is a link to their Facebook page please join me in working with them to make sure that we have many things to celebrate in 2020! Here is an excerpt from their email:

Vision 2020 was created to address the unfinished business of women's equality.
 
Seven years ago, I looked at the calendar and considered the approach of the year 2020, a year that should be celebrated for the commitment and the persistence of the suffragists who secured our right to vote, 133 years after the Constitution was signed, through the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
 
What many people forget is that those courageous women knew there was much more to women's equality than access to the ballot box. What about leadership opportunities? Economic security? And inclusion in the nation's history books?
 
When Vision 2020 set out to accelerate the pace of women's progress with An American Conversation About Women and Leadership, we did so with vigor. That conversation is lively now across the nation, and the momentum continues, as does the learning curve of these past seven years...
Here's to shared vision and collaboration - and success!

Cynthia
P.S. A big, big congratulations to our friends at Raising Ms President who won BEST DOCUMENTARY for their terrific film - which features many of you - that must be in part why it's so terrific!
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